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Pony tennis goes back to Great Falls

 

May 1, 2014

Daniel Horton

Havre High junior Tatiana Ralph slices a forehand during a 2014 Havre Invitational tennis match last month at the Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts. The Blue Pony tennis teams return to Great Falls Friday-Saturday for the Great Falls Invitational.

Tuesday was a very successful day for the Havre High boys and girls tennis teams in Great Falls. Now, the Blue Ponies will try to build on that success.

Friday and Saturday, the HHS tennis teams will be back in the Electric City for the Great Falls Invitational. The two-day meet is a dual tournament where the Ponies are scheduled to play Class AA stalwarts Butte High, Billings Senior and Billings Skyview, as well as Class B rival Cut Bank.

And with four more matches on the table, HHS head coach George Ferguson is excited and hopes the weather continues to cooperate.

“It says rain is in the forecast,” Ferguson said. “Not sure what it is, but it only seems to turn bad on the weekends right now. But hopefully, it’s dry enough for us to get our matches in because we’re at a critical point in our season right now, and we need to play against tough competition.”

Havre did that Tuesday when the Blue Ponies won five of six duals between them. The HHS boys cruised, losing only three matches all day in Great Falls, and they are led by No. 1 singles player Jeff Miller, whose record stands at a perfect 18-0 entering Friday’s matches. The senior duo of Ned Malone and Brian Smith anchor Havre’s strong doubles, while the junior tandem of Wyatt Lindbloom and Noah Landgraf have gone unbeaten over the last three weeks of competition.

“Jeff is playing well right now, but he needs to be challenged a little bit more,” Ferguson said. “He’s beaten some quality players recently, but he hasn’t gone up against any of the upper-tier players yet this season, so he really hasn’t been pushed yet. Hopefully, he gets some really good matches in this weekend.

“I also like the direction our doubles teams are going,” Ferguson added. “We are playing with three first-year teams this season, and they are getting better and better. Doubles is very hard to master when you haven’t played it much, but the six guys playing doubles for us are doing a great job, and they are definitely on the right track.”

Sophomore Jerod Boles, who hasn’t lost a match in three weeks, will play the No. 2 spot this weekend. Junior Jamie Lieberg will play No. 3, while the No. 4 spot will see a couple of different players as HHS is without senior Zach Hellegaard due to State Music Festival. Freshmen Nate Korb and Jake Sedahl will remain at No. 3 doubles, while Jeff Ralph, Kyle Kirkpatrick and Dustin Haas will also see action in Great Falls.

On the girls side, Havre will once again not be at full strength for some of this weekend’s event. But the Ponies will get back seniors Brandy Lambourne, Breck Don, Ellery Bresler and Haley Graham, all of whom missed Tuesday’s matches. Lambourne plays the No. 1 singles spot, while Bresler and Don are No. 1 doubles, and Graham teams up with Morgan Jappe at the No. 2 spot. Senior Shannon Herring is No. 3 singles.

“It will be nice to have all of our senior girls this weekend,” Ferguson said. “They have all missed some matches for one reason or another, so they really need this weekend. Divisonals is fast-approaching, so this weekend will be big for those girls.”

The Havre girls lineup will still be altered with State Music Festival this weekend. Junior Tatiana Ralph will be at No. 2 singles for the Ponies while Rainey Stoner will play singles Friday, but be paired back up with partner Madison Huebsch Saturday. Sophomores Kaylee Nash and Corttney Gobin will be at No. 4 doubles, while sophomores Alara Vogel and Ashley Hoffland will be back to play doubles Saturday as well.

As for the competition this weekend, Ferguson said he isn’t familiar with the AA foes the Ponies face, but he expects the competition level to rise, and that’s exactly what his teams need right now.

“We should be facing quality players throughout the weekend,” Ferguson said. “We know Billings Senior will probably be the best team we face. And Cut Bank is very strong at the top of its lineup on both the boys and girls sides, so that dual will also be a good challenge for us.

“But regardless of who we play,” he continued. “We just want to play well from start to finish. It’s imperative that we play our very best as we are in the third phase of our season now, and that’s preparing our kids for the divisional tournament, which is now just two weeks away. So the four matches we’ll get in Great Falls are key for us.”

Havre takes on Butte High and Billings Senior Friday in Great Falls. The Ponies will then head back to the Electric City to face Skyview and Cut Bank on Saturday.

 

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